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Alternative money and complementary currency

Sylvain Coiplet



Todays states are desperately trying to protect their currencies against speculators working globaly. However they were themselves the ones who started to degrade their own currency to a make-believe value.

Money limited in time

The reason why money is so handy is that it can stand for any kind of product and eases enormously the exchange. However when states print it, it tends to lose every connection to economical reality. A stamp is set upon it and its value should be so and so much worth - for ever. Although the amount on it remains constant, its value diminishes. Not to mention that states welcome inflation because they can thus more easily get rid of their debts, they are in any case the false address when it comes to connect a currency to economical production.

It is thus a basic request of a social threefolding that the state hands over its responsability for the currency to economical organisations. These will have to see to it themselves that the currency's worth neither plummets in the depths nor soars too high, so as to make exports almost impossible.

Money only makes sense as long as there is something to exchange. Thus money should be produced where usable production resources emerge, that is, where enterprises receive loans. And more important still: it must be taken out of circulation when the production resources are no longer available. If these don't get replaced by new means of production, no new money can then be produced. Thus it will then be possible to check whether the currency is still its money worth. Speculators will simply break their teeth on such currencies.

Thus every banknote, every coin or every credit balance needs a running time which is related to the life-expentency of the current means of production. One could thus speak of an aging money. However, one should not confuse this with Silvio Gesell's idea which also speaks of an aging money, whereby he aims to get rid of the interest economy. One is not trying to heat up the flow of money through a quarterly depreciation of for example 2%, but rather to replace old money at the right moment through new money in order to prevent it from devaluating. Both approaches could not be more different although they both use the same words. In order not to mix these up we can use Rudolf Steiners words and speak of a currency that is limited in time.

Barter clubs in Argentina

The population of Argentina, after the collapse of the official state-controlled currency, sought ways to help itself and created alternative currencies in the form of barter clubs. Quite rightly did the Argentinians not want to hear anything more about a devaluating currency. And since these clubs only reach as far as mutual trust extends they are at first protected from this. However the attempt to settle a real alternative currency, the Credito, did fail as did before it the state-run currency. After a successful start the currency had soon to be abandonned since it had been counterfeited on a big scale.

This points to the fact that an alternative economy has to begin on a small scale. Not with the aim to isolate oneself from the rest of the world, but rather to create a solid, trustworthy basis. Once this has been set about, the barter clubs will be able to connect with one another in such a way that first a regional currency and then, building on this, an alternative world currency can come about. This would be a new globalisation from below leaving the states aside, who otherwise try to instrumentalise their currency for their own purpose. One just has to think of the dollar. The american citizens are dependant for a third of their welfare on the fact that other people all over the world can only purchase particular goods with dollars. In order to maintain this priviledge the US-government doesn't hesitate to invade such a Land as Irak, after Saddam Hussein had made known that he, in the future, did not want to have oil paid in dollars but rather in euros.

The argentinians still have their future in their own hands. To start with they can create - parallel to the old currency - a new currency with which it is no longer possible to speculate internationaly. However, if the argentinians go further than just exchanging products or services and if they start to give out alternative money on a bigger scale, they won't then get around having to think about a time-limited currency. Money with no time limit can be lent out again and again in an unlimited way. With a time limited currency the creditor gets money back originating out of the same year as the one he lent out. He can buy himself something with it. But, if in the meanwhile the currency has become too old, he won't be able to lend it out any longer. In this way it is possible to switch off the compound interest machinery which enables to let a trillion dollars grow out of 10.000 within 500 years. Complete economies break down again and again through the dynamic of money which is not limited in time.

The Chiemgauer - a regional currency

A pupils' enterprise in a Waldorf school in Prien has recently brought about a regional currency - the Chiemgauer. The german injunction forbidding to press one's own currency was by-passed by founding a society. One must be a member of the society in order to use the Chiemgauer, but membership is free of charge.

The Chiemgauer can be changed into Euro at the rate of one to one and loses quarterly 2% of its value. In order to avoid complicated calculations new signs are stuck on the money bills every three months. Although the Chiemgauer is strongly influenced by Silvio Gesell's approach, one can also find elements here which at least symbollicaly point out to an aging money in the sense of social threefolding. Thus to begin with 3% of the sales are meant to go into the non-profit sphere. This points out to money's third function: additionaly to buying and being lent out money can also be offered as a gift. Much of what until now has been financed through tax money would be better served through the alloting of individual gift money. This affects primarily the cultural sphere. And this is exactly what an aging currency can bring about.

The advantage of such a mixture of the approaches of Silvio Gesell and of Rudolf Steiner is that all the sympathisers of a money reform can become aquainted with the necessity of gift money. This is for many an enlargening of their horizon. It would of course be good if, parallel to these, other initiatives would come about which would purely root on Rudolf Steiner's approach, where money doesn't gradualy wear out but has a time limit. One could imagine for instance that money could first be rejuvenated when it has gone through the account of a non-profit organisation. Just as for the Chiemgauer it is fairly easy to introduce such a currency.

Since the Chiemgauer has been set on a fairly small scale, it is not necessary to think about a possible forgery. However if the currency works out to be a success it will then be necessary to see to it that it experiences a better fate than that of the Credito. The alternative bank GLS-Bank - Ökobank is therefore already considering the introduction of a personal account in regional currency, where the users can pay with a credit card and thus be fairly protected against forgery.

Sylvain Coiplet

Translator: Christian Amyot

Auf deutsch:
Alternative Währungen und Komplementärwährungen
In english:
Alternative money and complementary currency
En français:
Monnaies alternatives et monnaies complémentaires
In Español:
Monedas alternativas y divisas complementarias